U.S. Department of State travel warning concerning Sathya Sai Baba
U.S. State Department

The text referring to Sathya Sai Baba (see also in Consular Sheet):-

"U.S. citizens should be aware that there have been reports of inappropriate sexual behavior by a prominent local religious leader at an ashram or religious retreat located in Andhra Pradesh. Most of the reports indicate that the subjects of these approaches have been young male devotees, including a number of U.S. citizens. Although these reports are unconfirmed, U.S. citizens should be aware of this information and contact the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai for further information."

Sathya Sai Baba cult defenders run a massive disinformation and cover-up campaign which tries to distort key facts about the US State Department DIRECT warning about Sathya Sai Baba. They claim the State Department did not directly name Sai Baba - but this is not true, as was confirmed to the BBC presenter of the 1 hour documentary 'The Secret Swami' when she contacted the U.S. Embassy in Delhi.

BBC's Tanya Datta in 'The Secret Swami'
View a video clip (1.5 Mb)

TRANSCRIPT - BBC report on investigations at the U.S. Embassy, Delhi.

Tanya Datta:
The American Government is also concerned. On the web site of the American Embassy in Delhi there's a warning to U.S. citizens visiting the State of Andhra Pradesh. It draws attention to a noted Godman who reportedlyindulges in inappropriate sexual behaviour with young male devotees.We contacted the U.S. Embassy in Delhi and they confirmed to us, and for the first time, that they are directly referring to Sai Baba.

The U.S. State Department does not issue warnings without having investigated the reasons most thoroughly. The State Department NEVER issued any formal withdrawal of the warning against Sai Baba, which would have also required them to make an apology for promoting false information. The warning simply became outdated, no doubt due to Sai Baba's subsequent chronic invalidism and greatly reduced capacity to meet devotees in private or continue the named "inappropriate sexual behaviour" in private interviews.

The chief argument of pro-Sai Baba defenders is that the warning was withdrawn. However, 'withdrawal' of a web page is not the same as withdrawal of the allegations already made by such responsible bodies, for no mention is made of refutation of the warnings, far from it. The said web page did only make an 'indirect' reference to Sai Baba because no formal court order had been achieved against Sai Baba, so he could not be named for legal reasons only. The warning was made, did refer to him, as he was nevertheless named by US officials who were contactable.

May 20, 2004

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: India is the world's largest democratic republic. It is a country with a very diverse population, geography and climate. Tourist facilities varying in degree of comfort and amenity are widely available in the major population centers and main tourist areas.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: U.S. citizens require a passport and visa to enter and exit India for any purpose. Visitors, including those on official U.S. government business, must obtain visas at an Indian Embassy or Consulate abroad prior to entering the country as there are no provisions for visas upon arrival. Those arriving without a visa are subject to immediate deportation. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India are unable to assist when U.S. citizens arrive without visas. For further information on entry requirements, please contact the Embassy of India at 2536 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 939-9849 or 939-9806 or the Indian Consulate in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, or Houston or http://www.indianembassy.org/. Outside the United States, inquiries should be made at the nearest Indian embassy or consulate. A list of Indian consulates and embassies can be found atwww.findthatdoc.com/.../download-documents-i-countries-pdf.htm.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated additional screening procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and notarized written consent for the child's travel from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian. Having such documentation on hand, may facilitate entry/departure.

Foreign citizens who visit India to study, do research, work or act as missionaries, as well as all travelers planning to stay more than 180 days are required to register within 14 days of arrival with the Foreigners Registration office where they will be staying.

DUAL NATIONALITY: India recently passed a bill that allows persons of Indian origin in eight countries, including the United States, to apply for a form of dual citizenship known as "Overseas Citizens" which does not confer political rights. Although the regulations have not yet been formalized, persons who have dual nationality as citizens of both India and the U.S. are subject to all Indian laws. Moreover, dual nationals also may be subject to other laws and regulations that impose special obligations on Indian citizens, such as taxation. In some instances such as arrest, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide assistance abroad. For additional information, please see the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.

SAFETY/SECURITY: There are occasional terrorist bombing incidents in various parts of India, predominantly in Jammu and Kashmir. These bomb blasts have occurred in public places as well as on public transportation, such as trains and buses and resulted in deaths or injuries. In late 2002 and in 2003, there were several bomb blasts in Mumbai (Bombay), including on public transportation, at a public market and at the Gateway of India. The motive for these blasts has not been clearly established. In December 2000, terrorists attacked Delhi's Red Fort, a major tourist attraction, leaving three Indians dead, and in December 2001, terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament. In September 2002, terrorists attacked the Swaminarayan temple complex in Gandhinagar, the administrative capital of Gujarat state. Over 30 people were killed and 70 injured. Foreign visitors have been injured in some of these attacks. There is no indication that these attacks are directed against U.S. citizens or other foreigners. However, terrorist groups, some of which are linked to Al-Qaeda and have been previously implicated in attacks against U.S. citizens, are active in India and have attacked and killed civilians. U.S. citizens should exercise particular vigilance when in the vicinity of government installations, visiting tourist sites, or attending public events throughout India.

U.S. citizens should also be alert to suspicious packages in public places and avoid crowds, political demonstrations, and other manifestations of civil unrest.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Consular Bureau's website.

Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).


--JAMMU and KASHMIR: The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid travel to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, with the exception of visits to the Ladakh region and its capital, Leh. A number of terrorist groups operate in the state, and security forces are active throughout the region, particularly along the Line of Control (LOC) separating Indian and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.

Since 1989, as many as 60,000 people (terrorists, security forces, and civilians) have been killed in the Kashmir conflict, including almost 1,000 civilians in 2003 alone. Many terrorist incidents take place in the state's summer capital of Srinagar, but the majority occurs in rural areas. Foreigners are particularly visible, vulnerable, and definitely at risk. Occasionally, even the Ladakh region of the state has been affected by terrorist violence, but incidents there are rare. The last such case was in 2000, when terrorists in Ladakh's Zanskar region killed a German tourist. The Indian government prohibits foreign tourists from visiting the Kargil area of Ladakh along the LOC. U.S. Government employees are prohibited from traveling to the state of Jammu and Kashmir without permission from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

In 1999, the terrorist organization Harakat-ul Mujahideen issued a ban on U.S. citizens, including tourists, visiting Kashmir, but has not followed up on this threat. In 1995, the terrorist organization Al Faran kidnapped seven Western tourists, including two U.S. citizens, who were trekking in Kashmir valley. One of the hostages was brutally murdered, another escaped, and the other five - including one U.S. citizen - have never been found. Srinagar has also been the site of a great deal of violence, including car bombings, market bombings, hand grenade attacks that miss their targets and kill or injure innocent bystanders, and deaths resulting from improvised (remote controlled) explosive devices (IEDs). In recent years, several tourists, including at least one U.S. citizen, have been fatally shot or wounded in Srinagar. The 2002 state elections were marred by multiple terrorist attacks that killed some 800 people, a large percentage of whom were innocent civilians. Some terrorist violence also marred the national parliamentary polls in April/May 2004.

--INDIA-PAKISTAN BORDER: The State Department recommends that U.S. citizens avoid travel to all border areas between India and Pakistan, including within the states of Gujarat, Punjab, and Rajasthan, and the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir. A ceasefire along the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir began on November 26, 2003. Both India and Pakistan maintain a strong military presence on both sides of the LOC. The only official India-Pakistan border crossing point is between Atari, India, and Wagah, Pakistan. A Pakistani visa is required to enter Pakistan. The border crossing is currently open. However, travelers are advised to confirm the current status of the border crossing prior to commencing travel.

Both India and Pakistan claim an area of the Karakoram mountain range that includes the Siachen glacier. U.S. citizens traveling to or climbing peaks in the disputed areas face significant risks. The disputed area includes the following peaks: Rimo Peak; Apsarasas I, II, and III; Tegam Kangri I, II and III; Suingri Kangri; Ghiant I and II; Indira Col.; and Sia Kangri.

--NORTHEAST STATES: Sporadic incidents of violence by ethnic insurgent groups, including the bombing of buses and trains, are reported from parts of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, and Meghalaya. While U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted, visitors are cautioned not to travel outside major cities at night. Security laws are in force, and the central government has deployed security personnel to several Northeast states. Travelers may check with the U.S. Consulate in Calcutta for information on current conditions. (Please see the section on Registration/Embassy and Consulate Locations below.)

--EAST CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN INDIA: Left-wing Maoist extremist groups called "Naxalites" are active in the region and U.S. citizens should exercise appropriate caution. The Naxalites have a long history of conflict with state and national authorities, including attacks on police and government officials. The Naxalites have not specifically targeted U.S. citizens, but have attacked symbolic targets that have included American companies. Groups claiming to be Naxalites have blackmailed American organizations, and in one instance a small bomb that exploded at an American corporation's production site was thought to have been part of an extortion plot. Two Naxalite groups, The Maoist Communist Center of India (MCCI), and the People's War Group (PWG) have been added to the list of "Other Terrorist Organizations" in the U.S. State Department Publication, "Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003."

--RESTRICTED AREAS: Advance permission is required from the Indian Government (from Indian diplomatic missions abroad) or for U.S. citizens currently in India, from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in New Delhi, to visit the states of Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, parts of Kulu district and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, border areas of Jammu and Kashmir, some areas of Uttaranchal, the area west of National Highway No. 15 running from Ganganagar to Sanchar in Rajasthan, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and the Union Territory of the Laccadives Islands (Lakshadweep). U.S. citizens who visit the Tibetan Colony in Mundgod, Karnataka, must obtain a permit from MHA before visiting. U.S. citizens may contact the MHA at: (011)(91)2469-3334 or 2301-3054. Tourists should exercise caution while visiting Mahabillipuram. The Indira Gandhi Atomic Research Center, Kalpakkam, is located directly adjacent to the site and is not clearly marked as a restricted and dangerous area.

CIVIL DISTURBANCES: Demonstrations can occur spontaneously and pose risks to travelers' personal safety and disrupt transportation systems and city services. In response to such events, Indian authorities occasionally impose curfews and/or restrict travel. Political rallies and demonstrations in India have the potential for violence, especially immediately preceding and following elections. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid demonstrations and rallies. In addition, religious and inter-caste violence occasionally occurs unpredictably. In early 2002, violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat resulted in at least 950 deaths according to official figures. While such violence rarely targets foreigners, mobs have attacked Indian Christian workers.

Missionary activity has aroused strong reactions in some areas --usually rural -- and in January 1999, a mob murdered an Australian missionary and his son in the eastern state of Orissa. In January 2003, a visiting U.S. citizen was attacked in Kerala by Hindu activists who accused him of preaching to the local community, although he held a tourist, not missionary, visa. Nevertheless, the principal risk for foreigners is that they could become inadvertent victims.

U.S. citizens should read local newspapers and contact the U.S. Embassy or the nearest U.S. Consulate for further information about the current situation in areas where they wish to travel.

During the Dassera and the Diwali festivals, U.S. citizen travelers to Calcutta and Eastern India should exercise additional caution. Large and sometimes unruly crowds gather on these holidays, especially in the immediate vicinity of the Pandals (elaborately decorated temporary structures). Such concentrations heighten the risk of petty theft, accidental injury, groping, and crowd disturbances. Transportation, even for emergency purposes, is more difficult during the holiday season, and travelers may become disoriented amidst large, flowing crowds. The United States Consulate General in Calcutta is available to assist U.S. citizens in emergencies, should they arise.

CRIME INFORMATION: Petty crime, especially theft of personal property, is common, particularly on trains or buses throughout the country. Pickpockets can be very adept, and women have reported having their bags snatched, purse-straps cut or the bottom of their purses slit without their knowledge. Theft of U.S. passports is quite common, particularly in major tourist areas. Violent crime, especially directed against foreigners, has traditionally been at relatively low levels, although recently there has been an apparent increase in violent attacks directed against foreign tourists, including robbery, murder, and sexual assault. These attacks have mainly been directed at women traveling alone but men have also been victimized. U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India. So-called "Eve Teasing" or verbal and sometimes physical harassment of single Indian women is not unusual. There have been more reports in the past year of foreign women being harassed in this manner. Because U.S. citizens' purchasing power is comparatively large relative to that of the general population, travelers also should always exercise modesty and caution in their financial dealings in India to reduce the chance of being a target for robbery or other serious crime. Gangs and criminal elements operate in several major cities in India and have sometimes targeted unsuspecting businessmen for ransom.

Major airports, train stations and tourist sites are often used by touts (confidence men) and scam artists looking to prey on visitors, often by creating a distraction. Taxi drivers and others, including train porters, may solicit travelers with "come-on" offers of cheap transportation and/or hotels. Travelers accepting such offers have often found themselves the victims of scams, including offers to assist with "necessary" transfers to the domestic airport, disproportionately expensive hotel rooms, unwanted "tours" to houseboats in Kashmir, unwelcome "purchases," and even threats when the tourists try to decline to pay. The Embassy generally suggests U.S. citizens use pre-paid taxis, however, the recent murder and robbery of a foreign woman traveling alone in a pre-paid taxi contracted at the New Delhi airport (the perpetrator was caught almost immediately) demonstrates the need for caution even when using such taxis to be sure they are properly licensed. Many hotels have courtesy cars that can be arranged in advance to pick up passengers at the airport, which may be another relatively secure alternative. Arriving passengers in New Delhi will find a tourist office at the airport to assist with onward transportation and travel arrangements.

Travelers should also exercise care when hiring transportation and/or guides and use only well known travel agents to book trips. Some scam artists have lured travelers by displaying their name on a sign when they leave the airport. Another popular scam is to drop money or to squirt something on the clothing of an unsuspecting traveler and during the distraction to rob them of their valuables. Individual tourists have also been given drugged drinks or tainted food to make them more vulnerable to theft, particularly at train stations. Even food or drink purchased in front of the traveler from a canteen or vender could be tainted. To protect against robbery of personal belongings, it is best not to accept food or drink from strangers.

Some vendors sell rugs or other expensive items that may not be of the quality promised. Travelers should deal only with reputable businesses and should not give their credit cards or money unless they are certain that goods being shipped to them are the goods they purchased. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it is best avoided. Most Indian states have official tourism bureaus set up to handle traveler's complaints.

Travelers should be aware of a number of other scams that have been perpetrated against foreign travelers, particularly in the Jaipur area. The scams generally target younger travelers and involve suggestions that money can be made by privately transporting gems or gold (both of which can result in arrest) or by taking delivery abroad of expensive carpets, supposedly while avoiding customs duties. The scam artists describe profits that can be made upon delivery of the goods. Most such schemes require that the traveler first put up a "deposit" to either show "sincerity" or as a "down payment" or as the "wholesale cost." All travelers are strongly cautioned that the schemes invariably result in the traveler being fleeced. The "gems" or "gold" are always fake, and if they were real, the traveler could be subject to arrest. Such schemes often pull the unsuspecting traveler in over the course of several days and begin with a new "friend" who offers to show the traveler the sights so that the "friend can "practice his English." Offers of cheap lodgings and meals also can place the traveler in the physical custody of the scam artist and can leave the traveler at the mercy of threats or even physical coercion.

While violent crime involving U.S. citizens is relatively rare in India, in recent years two U.S. citizens were murdered in the Haridwar/Rishikesh region of Uttaranchal state. Both had become heavily involved with the Hindu religious community there and these crimes were financially motivated. Several other foreigners have also been attacked in Uttaranchal. U.S. citizens have reported their passports and other belongings stolen while traveling. Crime and violence have also increased in the popular hiking and rafting destination of Kulu/Manali, where the number of foreign backpackers and tourists has been growing and where drugs are readily available. Foreigners are the targets of criminal activities primarily because of the disproportionately large sums of money they are thought to carry. Visitors are strongly cautioned not to travel alone and to be aware of their environment and belongings, especially when taking night trains or buses.

U.S. citizens should be aware that there have been reports of inappropriate sexual behavior by a prominent local religious leader at an ashram or religious retreat located in Andhra Pradesh. Most of the reports indicate that the subjects of these approaches have been young male devotees, including a number of U.S. citizens. Although these reports are unconfirmed, U.S. citizens should be aware of this information and contact the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai for further information.

For two decades, the forest brigand Veerappan has engaged in serious criminal activity, including abductions and murders, in the forested border areas between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. U.S. citizens planning to enter these forested border areas should consult the Forest Department and local police authorities regarding security conditions.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and find an attorney if needed.

DOWRY/VISA DEMANDS: A number of U.S. citizen men who have come to India to marry Indian nationals have been arrested and charged with crimes related to dowry extraction. Many of the charges stem from the U.S. citizen's inability to provide an immigrant visa for his prospective spouse to travel immediately to the United States. The courts sometimes order the U.S. citizen to pay large sums of money to his spouse in exchange for the dismissal of charges. The courts normally confiscate the American's passport, and he must remain in India until the case has been settled. There are also cases of U.S. citizen women whose families force them against their will into marriages to Indian nationals.

RELIGIOUS AND MISSIONARY ACTIVITY: Foreign visitors planning to engage in religious proselytizing are required by the 1956 Foreigners Act to have a "Missionary" visa. A 1995 Central Government order defines "inappropriate" religious activity to include speaking at religious meetings to which the general public is invited. Foreigners with tourist visas who engage in missionary activity are subject to deportation and possible prosecution. The states of Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh have additional legislation regulating conversion from one religious faith to another. U.S. citizens intending to engage in missionary activity may wish to seek legal advice regarding this legislation.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Adequate to excellent medical care is available in the major population centers, but is usually very limited or unavailable in rural areas.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, U.S. citizens should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection for malaria and dengue fever, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international traveler's hotline at telephone 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299)

Indian health regulations require all travelers arriving from Sub-Saharan Africa or other yellow-fever areas to have evidence of vaccination against yellow fever. Travelers who do not have such proof are subject to immediate deportation or a six-day detention in the yellow-fever quarantine center. U.S. citizens, who transit through any part of sub-Saharan Africa, even for one day, are advised to carry proof of yellow fever immunization.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning traffic safety and road conditions in India is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of public transportation: Poor
Urban road condition/maintenance: Poor
Rural road condition/maintenance: Poor
Availability of roadside assistance: Poor to non-existent.

Travel by road is dangerous. A number of U.S. citizens have suffered fatal traffic accidents in recent times. Travel at night is particularly hazardous. Buses, patronized by hundreds of millions of Indians, are convenient in that they serve almost every city of any size. However, they are usually driven fast, recklessly, and without consideration for official rules of the road. Accidents are quite common. Trains are somewhat safer than buses, but train accidents still occur more frequently than in developed countries.

On Indian roads, the safest driving policy is to assume that other drivers will not respond to a traffic situation in the same way you would in the United States. For instance, buses often run red lights and merge directly into traffic at yield points and traffic circles. Cars, auto-rickshaws, bicycles and pedestrians behave only slightly more cautiously. Indian drivers tend to look only ahead and often consider themselves responsible only for traffic in front of them, not behind or to the side. Frequent use of one's horn to announce presence is both customary and wise. It is usually preferable to have a licensed experienced driver who has a "feel" for road and driving conditions.

Outside major cities, main roads and other roads are poorly maintained and congested. Even main roads often have only two lanes, with poor visibility and inadequate warning markers. On the few divided highways one can expect to meet local transportation traveling in the wrong direction, often without any lights on. Heavy traffic is the norm and includes (but is not limited to) overloaded trucks and buses, scooters, pedestrians, bullock and camel carts, horse or elephant riders en route to weddings, and free-roaming livestock.

If a driver hits a pedestrian or a cow, the vehicle and its occupants are at risk of being attacked by passersby. Such attacks pose significant risk of injury or death to the vehicle's occupants or at least of incineration of the vehicle. It can thus be unsafe to remain at the scene of an accident of this nature, and drivers may instead wish to seek out the nearest police station.

Emergency Numbers: The following emergency numbers work in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai:

Police 100
Fire Brigade 101
Ambulance 102